The Beach Hop is New Zealand’s biggest Nostalgia Festival and celebrates the music, fashion, dancing, culture bikes and cars of the 50s & 60s. Now extended to 5 days, Beach Hop 06 kicked off with a 30 minute cruise up the coast to the recently opened Lakes Resort near Pauanui on Wednesday 26 April. This resort is based around a world class golf course, with a stunning clubhouse that looks over the facility. Over 100 cars headed off in glorious sunshine and completed a circuit of the development before parking up. Entrants then made their way towards the bar where the first band of the Festival, the Bobkats from Australia, kicked things off with a bang.
A full tank of gas was need for the 200km scenic cruise around the Coromandel peninsula on Thursday. The convoy of 150+ cars made their way along the famous Thames Coast under clear blue skies. A leisurely 2-hour stop over in Coromandel for lunch and sightseeing was made even more special by many local businesses and community groups getting into the spirit of the event, while a steady crowd of locals and tourists checked out the cars parked at the local school. Then it was a great cruise over the hills to Whitianga for a brief stop right at a reserve right on the waterfront next to the Marina. Cars headed back to Whangamata passing through some of NZ’s most popular seaside resorts in time for the Drive in Movie. American Graffiti was the choice of movie for 2006 and under threatening clouds the show got under way. Over 400 cars packed into the school field – the biggest ever attendance at the movie in the Hop’s history. As a special treat at the end of movie, the front engined dragsters of the Smythe Family, Pins & Uttinger and Possum fired up for a night time “Cracklefest” – right under the movie screen. There were flames a plenty and they sounded crisp in the cool night air. It was that cool – Pins & Possum did it a 2nd time when asked by the huge crowd!
Early morning torrential rain meant that the Onemana Thundercruise was cancelled on Friday – but the fun wasn’t, as Whangamata became New Zealand’s biggest cruising town – all day!
Saturday is the main festival day. Organiser Noddy Watts announced the 2 minute countdown. And then it rained. Hard. For the first time in 6 years the Beach Hop Grand Parade was affected by rain. But the crowds still came out and you couldn’t find a brolly anywhere for 30km for 2 weeks! Over 45,000 people crammed the little town that usually is home to just 4,000. A highlight was the appearance of Kiwi Grant Downing who has been involved in the US drag racing scene since 1992. He runs Silver Fern Racing team that campaigns a nitro funny car in the AA/FC ranks. Grants best to date has been a 4.9 second quarter mile time at 311 mph making him the fastest Kiwi on land. It takes 8000 horsepower to go that fast and Grant unleashed some of that to onlookers at the festival, making the earth shake in the process.
Sunday’s Nostalgia fair was hugely popular again this year. Many trade displays offered hand-crafted kiwi made wares alongside the Betty Boop, hot rod apparel and memorabilia. Local performers, a top 10 Shootout and prize giving kept the crowds and kids entertained throughout making this one of the event highlights. Top vehicle at the Hop, voted by the public, was Karen Collins’ 1961 Cadillac for the second year in a row.
And so drew then close of another amazing Beach Hop. 1221 cars pre-registered for the event with a further 52 late entries. There were also 100’s of cars that just arrived to soak up the atmosphere. 16 bands, including 3 from Australia, played music from the era all weekend long. The Retro Rockets from Newcastle, Australia won many new fans with their brilliant Rockabilly sound and look. A number of new events were added to the programme this year and all were incredibly successful. These included a Low Brow Art Fest (44 entries), Retro Beauty Show (34 Betties), 60’s Surf Competition (40 entries), Nostalgia Golf Tournament (45 entries) and Rock’n’Roll Church Service with over 200 people attending.
Come on down under in 2007 for the 7th running of the Festival – 25 to 29th April 07. More info on www.beachhop.co.nz